Skip to comments.WHO: Bird Flu Virus 'Virulant'
Posted on 06/10/2005 8:49:11 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Hong Kong - A top World Health Organisation official warned on Friday that the avian flu virus is evolving quickly and urged heightened vigilance because the strain in China appears to have increased in virulence.
"The virus remains unstable, unpredictable and very versatile," Shigeru Omi, the WHO's Western Pacific regional director, said at a news conference.
"Anything could happen," he said. "Judging from the way the virus has behaved it may have new and unpleasant surprises in store for us."
Omi said the H5N1 virus is behaving differently in China and Vietnam. China has reported no human cases of bird flu while Vietnam has had 38 of Asia's 54 human deaths.
But the cases in Vietnam appear to be becoming less deadly, with fatality rates dropping from a high of 60 to 70% last year, to about 10% to 20% so far in 2005, Omi said.
Vietnam has also seen more a-symptomatic cases, where people are infected but don't develop symptoms.
In China, however, two outbreaks among birds in the country's remote west in the past month have killed large numbers of different species of birds which had previously been relatively resilient to the disease, Omi said.
"The outbreaks indicate that the virus has become highly pathogenic to more and more species," he said.
The different paths H5N1 has taken in China and Vietnam shows that it "is evolving very quickly," he said.
The only way to safeguard against further outbreaks or worse - a mutation of the virus into a form easily passed between humans - is "heightened vigilance," he said.
"Our work remains urgent," Omi said.
That means it's imperative for countries to share information, research and samples from their outbreaks with international agencies to strengthen efforts to fight the disease, he said.
Countries also need to strengthen their pandemic preparation plans, which include improved vaccine development and making anti-viral drugs available, Omi said.
I wonder if you had a soup bowl of pure bird flu virus, would it taste like chicken?
Every day we hear of some new wonder virus and yet a few weeks later the threat fails to materialise.
Could it have something to do with WHO funding?
I don't know. But my big worry is how come we're not hearing any of this summer's shark attack numbers? Last year we had lots of news about shark attacks. But so far this year, nada. It makes me worried that the WHO is hiding the real world health problem.
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